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By the Horns (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 47 - By the Horns[]

Celestial Palace
Forbidden City, Sian
Capellan Confederation
November 20th, 3025

Romano Liao swallowed heavily as the Court of Sian grew silent at her entry. She had been summoned here—escorted by armed troopers of the Red Lancers, the fanatical guardians of the Chancellor himself. Colonel Judith Abermarle, the commanding officer of the Lancers, led the procession to the balk lines upon the polished floor and then she knelt, her head bowed low . . . and Romano was herself pushed down upon the flagstones by the guards beside her instead of being allowed to continue forward.

“Child,” Maximillian Liao beamed down at his younger daughter, and then his warm smile faded away into a stern look that felt as cold as arctic ice. “I must say that I admire your audacity—your . . . courage,” his voice turned into a snarl at that word and Romano shivered, “in attempting to seize the factories of MacLeod’s Land and Pinard and New Vandenberg for the Confederation.”

“Yes,” Max Liao spoke as he lowered his head, “it was an audacious plan that called for taking and holding at least four Taurian worlds with a handful of regiments . . .,” he paused and his eyes narrowed. “Tell me, daughter . . . where are my regiments now?”

“Re-returning to Menke, Father,” Romano whispered and Max nodded; he leaned back in his throne and he stroked his long beard with one hand—the other clenched the arm of his throne so hard that his knuckles had turned white.

“All of them, daughter?” Max asked in a voice just as quiet . . . but one that echoed throughout the Court.

“I-I was not expe-. . .,” she began, but Max rose from his throne.

“YOU DID NOT THINK!” he spat, and Romano cringed. “The offensive arm of the Capellan Confederation Armed Forces—shattered! Marcus Baxter tells me that it will take years to rebuild the Armored Cavalry to their previous strength—right now, AT THIS MOMENT, DAUGHTER! Right now, of the five Regiments that you threw away, there are barely enough troopers and ‘Mechs returning to Menke to form two.”

Max shook his head as he looked down at the shaking young woman and then he took a deep breath. “My plans—to place the blame on Hanse Davion for the destruction of their Vickers Core and that ship in orbit; to bring Thomas Calderon into an alliance that would strengthen the Confederation . . . those plans are now useless child, thanks to your wanton appetite for bloodshed and utter lack of any strategic sense!”

The Chancellor sat back down on his throne, composing himself once more. “Thankfully, there are those who value preserving face for the Liao—those who are willing to help us by telling the Inner Sphere that it was not your stupidity which threw away my Regiments, but instead Taurian atrocities.”

“GUARDS!” he snapped. “Get this criminal out of my sight—she is to remain in exile at her estates on Quemoy until I send for her. Contemplate your sins, my daughter—in silence. And count yourself fortunate that it is not, at this time, Our Will that you be joined with Archibald McCarron in death.”

The guards seized Romano’s arms dragged her away—her last sight before the doors closed behind her was her Father turning to Candace.

“And now, Favored Child, we will address how to correct your idiot sister’s upheaval of my policies.”

The doors finished closing before Romano could do more than sputter in shock as the Lancers continued to drag her through the Palace and then to the space-port.

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